The process varies depending upon where you are located in the United Kingdom.
There is a two-stage process in England which takes approximately 6 months to complete.
In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland the same processes take place but are not as prescriptive or rigidly divided as in England. The process in its entirety should take no longer than eight months in Wales and Northern Ireland and seven in Scotland.
Initially, agencies will encourage you to find out all of the information you need about adoption and to fully explore what it will mean for you and your family. They will provide you with written information and offer information sessions. When you are ready to proceed the agency will provide you with a Registration of Interest Form and this will enable them to decide whether they can begin to work with you.
Stage One – Registration & Checks
This stage of the assessment allows you to explore in more detail what will be involved in adoption through attending training provided by the adoption agency, doing relevant reading and beginning some exploratory work which you will be asked to complete with support from the agency. At the same time, your agency will complete all the statutory checks so they can be confident about progressing you through to a full assessment as outlined above.
Your agency will complete a Stage One Plan with you. This will set out the responsibilities and expectations for this stage of the process for both you and the agency.
You will also be asked to provide various pieces of factual information along with nominating three personal references who know you well who will be asked to provide written references followed by an interview, two of them will need to be non-family members. You will also be asked to attend a medical and have a police check through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
You will then be invited to attend preparation groups with other prospective adopters where you will learn more about the children needing adoption and their needs and will also usually have the opportunity to meet experienced adopters. You may be asked to complete some tasks, for example, you may be asked to increase your contact and involvement with children during this period if the agency feels you would benefit from this. You may be asked to attend other courses or undertake other work that is felt would also be of benefit.
This stage will usually take two months but you can ask for extra time if you need it and the agency may need additional time to follow up some of the statutory checks, for example if they need to contact specialists relating to a medical issue or obtain an overseas police check.
At the end of Stage One, the agency will let you know once all the references have been received and they are happy for you to begin the next Stage where a detailed assessment will be completed.
If the agency feels they cannot progress you to the assessment stage they will need to give you written reasons and if, at this point, you are not happy with the written reasons provided, you are entitled to seek independent legal advice and help on the contents.
If they do not have the capacity to offer you a full assessment and you do not want to wait then they must signpost you to other agencies or to First4Adoption, the National Adoption Gateway, so you can be helped to identify another agency.
Stage Two – Assessment & Approval
Once you notify the agency that you wish to proceed to the full assessment, the adoption agency will meet with you to agree on a Stage Two plan detailing how the assessment process will be completed. This will include details of assessment meetings, dates for training sessions and a proposed date for the adoption panel.
A social worker from the adoption agency will then make several visits to you in your home or sometimes in their offices. They will speak to you about your past experiences and how these have influenced you in thinking about what kind of parents you want to be. They may also ask to speak to any children you have living at home or away from home and some of your significant friends and family.
At the end of this assessment, the social worker will prepare a written report which you can see and comment on and then this will be presented to the agency’s independent adoption panel who will consider the report and recommend whether or not you should be approved as adopters. You will be given the opportunity to meet with the panel to assist them with their recommendation.
The agency’s decision maker will usually make their decision that you are approved to adopt within four months of the start of Stage Two, however you can ask for extra time during the assessment if you need it and the agency will let you know if they feel more time is needed.
You can read more about the adoption process in England at www.first4adoption.org.uk/the-adoption-process/